Medical marijuana remains a controversial issue in Michigan, despite nearly two-thirds of voters approving the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Since 2008, when the act was approved, municipalities statewide have varied in their approach to medical marijuana, unsure of their powers to govern patients, growing operations, dispensaries and medicinal marijuana transfers.
While most prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have come to accept medical marijuana and its benefits, some have remained steadfast that all marijuana is illegal. This is an unfortunate effect of decades of anti-marijuana campaigns and legislation, which medical marijuana supporters are now fighting to counteract. That sentiment and feeling may still exist, but so does one simple fact -- it is legal for Michigan residents to possess medical marijuana, and those patients and caregivers should not be arrested for following the law. Registered patients are protected from arrest, prosecution or penalty, according to Section 333.26424 of the Act.
Linden City Attorney Charles McKone recommended in 2011 that police "continue arresting anyone possessing or smoking marijuana" and "it's up to the individual to defend themselves."
More recently, in 2013, McKone shied away from comments about Linden's arrest first, ask questions later policy when questioned by the Tri-County Times, instructing those calls simply be forwarded to him or the interim city manager.
This bit of harassment from local law enforcement must stop. Law-abiding patients possessing well below the state-approved amount of medical marijuana are forced to defend themselves in court for following the law. The Linden arrest policy is seemingly bent on circumventing Michigan's medical marijuana law.
Recent cases in the Michigan Supreme Court, including an opinion on dispensaries recently, solidify medical marijuana in this state. With the highest court offering its opinion on specifics within the law, it defined, defended and protected medical marijuana in Michigan.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has already ruled policies like those in Linden do not trump the state's medical marijuana laws. Last August, the court ruled on behalf of attorney and patient John Ter Beek, striking down the city of Wyoming's ban on medical marijuana, calling it "void and unenforceable."
Ironically, policies of intention and instruction of arresting anyone possessing medical marijuana, which exist in many communities statewide, opens up municipalities to potential litigation should a patient feel compelled to seek remedies. Repeated and public policies of wrongful arrest is not only bad for the innocently arrested, but a community at large, with local officials attempting to overrule state law and ignore the will of the people.
As we move forward, medical marijuana is, and will be for the foreseeable future, legal in Michigan. What supporters and advocates can do is tell our stories and educate detractors. I welcome the opportunity to sit down with Mr. McKone, or any other official in the state, to discuss the benefits of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act and the harmful effects to Michigan residents of policies such as those enacted in Linden.